United States District Court, District of Columbia
G. SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Melissa Cooper (“Ms. Cooper”) brings this action
against the defendant District of Columbia
(“District”) after she was terminated from her
position as a Special Education Teacher in the District of
Columbia Public School (“DCPS”) system. Pending
before the Court is the District's motion for summary
judgment on her two remaining claims: (1) retaliation in violation
of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”),
42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq.; and the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621
et seq.; and (2) retaliation for protected activity
under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29
U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. The Court has carefully
considered the motion, the response and reply thereto, the
applicable law, and the entire record herein. The Court finds
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and
thus, for the reasons stated below, the District's motion
for summary judgment is GRANTED.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e), Local Rule 7(h), and
Ms. Cooper's Pleading Defects
party moves for summary judgment, it must accompany its
motion with a statement of material facts as to which it
contends there is no genuine issue. LCvR 7(h)(1). The movant
must reference the specific parts of the record relied on in
support of the assertions of fact in the statement.
Id. In turn, the non-movant's opposition brief
must be accompanied by a concise statement of genuine issues
setting forth all material facts as to which it contends a
genuine issue exists. Id. That statement of genuine
issues also must include specific references to the
evidentiary record. Id. But if a party “fails
to properly address another party's assertion of fact . .
. the court may . . . consider th[at] fact undisputed for
purposes of the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). That is, a
court “may assume that facts identified by the moving
party in its statement of material facts are admitted, unless
such a fact is controverted in the statement of genuine
issues filed in opposition to the motion.” LCvR
7(h)(1). However, a material fact in the movant's
statement is not “controverted” if a non-movant
supplies additional facts and “factual context”
but does not actually dispute the movant's asserted fact.
Toomer v. Mattis, No. 11-2216, 2017 WL 3084376 at *2
(D.D.C. July 19, 2017) (citing Gibson v. Office of the
Architect of the Capitol, No. 00-2424, 2002 WL 32713321,
at *1 n.1 (D.D.C. Nov. 19, 2002)).
District contends, with citations to the record, that there
are nine facts as to which there is no genuine issue. Def.
Stmt., ECF No. 48 at 3-4. In response, Ms. Cooper contends
that twenty-nine facts are in dispute. Pl. Stmt., ECF No.
51-2. Of these, only one is supported by
citation to the record. Id. at ¶ 2. Thirteen
are irrelevant because they relate to a claim that was
dismissed. Id. at ¶¶ 4-17; see Cooper
v. Henderson, 174 F.Supp.3d 193, 202-03 (D.D.C.
2016)(dismissing Ms. Cooper's claims for failure to
accommodate). The remaining statements of fact either cite to
an affidavit that was not filed on the docket or are
the Court draws from facts submitted by the District which
went undisputed or were inadequately disputed by Ms. Cooper,
Ms. Cooper's asserted facts where they are relevant and
supported by record evidence, as well as the factual record.
See Dage v. Johnson, 537 F.Supp.2d 43, 52-54 (D.D.C.
2008) (finding no error when the Court assumed the
movant's material facts were admitted because the
non-movant's statements “did not cite to record
evidence”)(internal quotations omitted).
Cooper was employed by DCPS as a Special Education Teacher
for over thirty years, from 1980 to 2012. Def. Mot., ECF No.
48 at ¶¶ 1-2. On August 10, 2012, Ms. Cooper was
terminated from her position at Roosevelt Senior High School.
Termination Notice, ECF. No. 48-1. She is
Cooper's problems with her school's Principal and
Assistant Principal began in the 2010-2011 school year and
continued until her 2012 termination. See generally
Pl. Interrog., ECF. No. 48-8. Starting in 2010, she had
various disputes with administrators regarding perceived
unfair treatment. Id. at 2-9. In the 2010-2011
school year, from April 4, 2011 until June 10, 2011,
Cooper took FMLA medical leave due to stress. Pl. Dep., ECF
No. 48-9 at 13:16-22. That same school year, Ms. Cooper
received a “minimally effective” rating pursuant
to DCPS' “Effectiveness Assessment System for
School- Based Personnel.” 2010-2011 Assessment, ECF No.
48-2. Her difficulties with school administration continued
into the 2011-2012 school year. Ms. Cooper took a second FMLA
medical leave of absence to undergo Achilles tendon surgery
from December 1, 2011 through January 10, 2012. Pl. Dep., ECF
No. 48-9 at 52:1-6, 59:14-22. That year, Ms. Cooper again
received a “minimally effective” rating.
2011-2012 Assessment, ECF No. 48-3.
August 10, 2012, Ms. Cooper was terminated subject to DCPS
procedure, which subjects employees receiving a minimally
effective rating for two consecutive years to removal.
Termination Notice, ECF No. 48-1. At some point after she was
terminated, Ms. Cooper challenged the decision with the
Office of Employee Appeals (“OEA”). OEA Appeal,
ECF No. 51-5. While it is unclear when the OEA case was
officially resolved, the OEA Administrative Judge
memorialized in a June 23, 2014 Order that Ms. Cooper and
DCPS indicated they were settling the dispute through
Cooper also filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on
December 20, 2013, alleging that she had been subjected to
race, age, and disability discrimination; was subjected to
retaliation for protected activity; and endured a hostile
work environment. EEOC Charge, ECF No. 48-5. The EEOC
rejected her claim on May 30, 2014 and sent notice advising
Ms. Cooper of her right to sue the District within 90 days of
receipt. EEOC Dismissal, ECF Nos. 51-3, 48-6. The notice was
stamped for mailing on June 4, 2014. Id. Ms. Cooper
filed her claim in this Court on September 9, 2014.
Cooper is now retired. She first approached DCPS to determine
when she would be eligible for retirement in April 2011 and
was told to return for a retirement calculation in the next
school year. Pl. Dep., ECF No. 48-9 at 84:2-10. In November
2011, she requested and received a retirement computation, or
an analysis of when an employee is eligible to retire, and
learned that she was eligible for retirement in November
2012. Id. at 84:11-18. In July or August 2012,
Cooper submitted another computation form to calculate her
future retirement benefits. Id. at 84:19-85:22;
Computation Form, ECF No. 51-4. At some point, Ms. Cooper was
informed by an unnamed DCPS attorney that she could not
receive retirement benefits because she had been terminated.
Pl. Dep., ECF No. 48-9 at 88:9-15. On June 26, 2014, Ms.
Cooper submitted a final application for retirement. Pl.
Opp'n, ECF No. 51 at 12-13; Pl. Dep., ECF No. 48-9 at
86:2-4. Her retirement paperwork was processed and she began
receiving benefits in August 2014. Pl. Dep., ECF No. 48-9 at
Standard of Review
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment
should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a); Waterhouse v. District of Columbia, 298 F.3d
989, 991 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The moving party must identify
“those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation
marks omitted). To defeat summary judgment, the nonmoving
party must demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. at 324. A material fact is one
that is capable of affecting the outcome of the litigation,
while a genuine dispute is one where “the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Further, in the summary
judgment analysis “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is
to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be
drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. However, rule
56(e) requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings
to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Celotex, 477 U.S. 317 at 324.
Ms. Cooper Failed to Establish a Retaliation Claim Under the